WINDHOEK – A truck packed with 139 grape farm workers overturned yesterday on a gravel road on its way to Nagrapex and Nivex Enterprises at Aussenkehr in the //Karas Region.
The Minister of Works and Transport, Erkki Nghimtina told parliament yesterday that this is the first time in the history of Namibia that such a large number of people are involved in a road accident. According to him the accident should be a reminder to all Namibians that the laws and regulatory framework, with respect to the circumstances under which passengers may be transported, are not being adhered to by motorists. He therefore called on all law enforcement agencies to work together to ensure enforcement of the Road Traffic and Transportation Act. The two farms that employs the workers are part of Namibia Grape Export (Pty) Ltd and belong to a grape farmer identified as Dusan Visiljevic.
Fifteen persons were reported to be in a critical condition and were taken by ambulance to Karasburg after they were stabilized at the Aussenkehr clinic. Another eight victims with very serious injuries had to be evacuated to Keetmanshoop. The 15 persons that sustained serious injuries and approximately 20 others were treated for light injuries at Aussenkehr. The most critical victims arrived last night in Windhoek in police helicopters and two air ambulances through E-Med Rescue 24. Speaking to New Era the Senior Manager Occupational Health and Safety, Elize van Zyl, said ambulances were sent from Keetmanshoop and Karasburg soon after the accident. “A doctor was also on his way after being contacted. The very serious injured victims were taken by ambulance to Keetmanshoop and Windhoek respectively for emergency surgical intervention. While severals others were offered counseling by welfare manager, Matias Andreas, who is the resident union rep and the acting General Secretary of the Namibia Farm Workers Union (NFWU).”
Around 11h00 yesterday Matias Andreas said the situation was under control as most of the patients were transported by ambulance to Karasburg State Hospital and the Noordoewer clinic respectively, while only six people were at the Aussenkehr clinic at that moment waiting for an ambulance. He described their injuries as very serious with some of the victims having lost limbs, while some sustained deep cuts and others suffered serious fractures. The Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA), in an emergency media briefing yesterday said 139 people sustained injuries ranging from moderate to serious. MVA CEO, Rosalia Martins-Hausiku, said four victims sustained serious head injuries, while two others suffered suspected spinal cord injuries. “The MVA dispatched two police helicopters and two air ambulances from E-Med Rescue 24 with a 16-member team on board, comprising of doctors, paramedics and emergency care technicians to the two towns. MVA also dispatched a patient bus from Karasburg State Hospital to Noordoewer and will transfer 12 patients to Karasburg. Another bus will collect the slightly injured patients from Karasburg back to Keetmanshoop,” said Martins-Hausiku.
She said the MVA would like to assure the public that it is handling the matter with due diligence to ensure all those injured receive appropriate medical treatment. “So far the cost incurred in the transportation of the patients stands at N$403 100 in respect of the air ambulances and the hiring of paramedics and it is expected to increase as the exercise continues,” she explained. She said the MVA on numerous occassions called on employers to desist from transporting their workers in trucks and other vehicles not fitted with proper seats. – Additional reporting by Tonateni Shidhudhu.
By Fifi Rhodes